As any Midem veteran knows attendance at what is billed each year as the world’s largest gathering of music professionals have been declining year-on-year for the last five years. I’m by no means a Midem veteran but have attended four or five of the events in the last ten years. For 2008, 2009 and 2010 attendance has been on a very sharp downward slope. In 2010 the exhibition floor was like a ghost town; the organizers had even given away stalls to certain businesses, because they could not sell them.
Does all of the aforementioned point to Midem being pointless? Not necessarily. But it does indicate to TMV that the core reason for attending and the actual DNA makeup of the delegates has rapidly changed. You would be lucky if 3% of the delegates were from major labels. This is probably more of an indication of the decline of that part of the industry. Interestingly, more and more of the delegates come from the digital music start-up sector but all fight for the same small pie and quite often want to license label content. In the last three years there seems to be an ever increasing number of students and wannabe’s wanting to make inroads in the music business, who make up the core delegate numbers.
Labels no longer attend to primarily pat each other on the back. If one or two senior labels executives are in attendance due to the fact that they are speaking at Midem or MidemNet, then they have to give the impression that they are serious; and so bring in a few no-bodies to fill out their crew. Other than that, and a few key Indies, it is a label ghost town.
In TMV’s view, gone are the days when labels had lots of money to throw around at ridiculously priced villa’s and hotel rooms. These days it is bootstrapped start-ups all pitching in and throwing joint parties and throwing in rounds of drinks each for a total of two hours to delegates who can fit into the Carlton Hotel. In this age of music business austerity, the decadence of the location is clearly out of place with the position the industry finds itself in.
Understandably, the organizers of Midem have attempted to make changes to the event’s format and its contextual make up. And praise must be given where it is due. Yet TMV’s view is: is this not too little too late? The same old panel formats where executives spout their corporate mission statements? Why pay exorbitant delegate attendance prices when you can just go to a companies website and get their corporate bollocks. People attend conferences, as they want REAL opinions – not the same old censored corporate bollocks.
It could be argued that label attendance at Midem has dropped faster than recorded music sales in the western world have. So if you were a label why would you attend Midem?
Is having numerous new tech start-up vendors all plying you to license them your content or to buy their solution, a good thing? As a content owner would you really want to risk alienating your core consumers by licensing or making your content available in so many different formats and usage models? Would it not be better to consolidate key formats and usage models to prevent confusion amongst your music fans?
Overall, yes, there is no doubt some value in attending Midem exists but if it is to build and generate label interest in your new digital music service, quite simply there is no longer enough labels attending to make it viable from an ROI perspective.
ROI is the keyword here. The question to be asked: is purchasing exhibition space a viable and accountable method of generating new business for your own start-up? What is the reality of actually locking serious deals in place by attending Midem? These are key dilemmas that both labels and the new tech side of the industry have to ask themselves. Furthermore, in this age of environmental awareness, is flying half across the world for no real quantifiable ROI ecologically intelligent?